Brazil ranchers sentenced for killing farmers

AP News
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Posted: Oct 12, 2013 1:50 PM

SAO PAULO (AP) — A ranch owner has been sentenced to more than 100 years in jail for ordering and taking part in the 2004 killing of five landless farmworkers who occupied his property in southeastern Brazil.

Adriano Chafik received a 115-year sentence Friday, while his employee Washington Agostinho was sentenced to 97 years, according to the website of the judiciary branch of the state of Minas Gerais. Under Brazilian law no one can serve more than 30 years in prison.

The two are free pending the outcome of their appeal processes.

In 2002, 80 families led by the Landless Rural Workers Movement, better known by its Portuguese initial MST, occupied Chafik's property in the Jequitinhonha River valley, one of the poorest regions of Brazil. Two years later, gunmen opened fire on their camp. Four farmworkers died at the scene and a fifth died on the way to the hospital. Twelve were wounded.

The MST encourages the occupation of land it considers unproductive to pressure the government to speed up land reform.

Killings over land conflicts in Brazil are common. According to the watchdog group Catholic Land Pastoral, more than 1,500 rural activists have been slain in Brazil over the past 25 years.

The killings are mostly carried out by gunmen hired by loggers, ranchers and farmers to silence protests over illegal logging and land rights.